A coalition of 13 private hospitals will meet this week to come up with an alternative to an immediate closing of 1,402-bed Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center.
L.A. County Chief Administrative Officer Sally Reed last week proposed closing County-USC to help meet the county's $1.2 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Shutting down the facility would save an estimated $376 million annually.
County supervisors delayed voting on the issue, agreeing to create a Health Crisis Task Force to suggest alternatives to meet the county's $655 million health services shortfall.
The Department of Health Services accounted for $2.4 billion of Los Angeles' $12.3 billion budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. Next year's budget is $11.1 billion.
More than 12,000 of the 18,000 proposed job cuts in Reed's plan come from the healthcare sector. County-USC alone employs 9,000.
A flood of indigent patients could collapse Los Angeles' hospital system if County-USC shuts down, said David Langness, a spokesman for the 230-hospital Healthcare Association of Southern California. The task force may propose a phased-in closure, he said.
No financial impact estimates have been worked out for the hospitals, he said.
County-USC serves more than 650 emergency room patients a day and is the hub of Los Angeles County's trauma-care system, handling 28% of all county trauma cases. Many patients have high-acuity injuries, such as burns and trauma.
"We're the lynchpin of the 911 system," said Harvey Kern, a spokesman for County-USC.
The bulk of patients at County-USC have no health insurance. The coalition, representing some of the county's largest private hospitals, may propose a system such as Orange County's, in which the county parcels out money received from the state to private hospitals for indigent care, Langness said.
"It's nowhere near full reimbursement," he said.
There is widespread doubt that the private sector is prepared to deal with the volume of trauma care and indigent services County-USC provides.
Reed also proposed closing 25 of 39 area health centers, including four of six comprehensive health centers, which provide urgent-care services. Those patients would overburden hospital emergency rooms, said Tobie Stahlei, a DHS spokeswoman.